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Tuesday, 20 October 1964

The CHAIRMAN - To which Division is the honorable senator speaking?

Senator MORRIS - Division No. 330, sub-division 4, item 01. The crux of the matter is that we are short of skilled tradesmen because the economy of this country is growing so rapidly under the present Government. We are running out of bodies. The problem boils down to that. The gap is being closed effectively by the Government's immigration programme through which we are bringing in not only tradesmen, but also families which include young men - perhaps school children - who, in a year or two, will become apprentices.

Instead of condemning the Government, we should commend it for the excellent work it has done, which has been responsible for the booming economy and the shortage of apprentices. 1 believe that in the community there are many people who may be unskilled but basically are extremely capable. I am referring not to our young men, but to those men who have advanced to maturity. Many of these people want to increase their earning capacity, and for this reason I am an extremely strong supporter of the proposed supplementary training scheme which, unfortunately, is so strongly opposed by the Opposition. I think this is quite a tragedy.

J.   remind honorable senators that the newly-elected Labour Government of Great Britain has agreed, as previously promised, to develop an adult supplementary training scheme. This is one part of the answer. Our present Government made strong efforts in this respect but has been unable to obtain the co-operation of the trade unions.

Senator Murphy - What about the cooperation of the employers?

Senator MORRIS - The adult supplementary training scheme which has been proposed by this Government is not being received at all happily by the trade unions. They are not co-operating at all in this scheme. Surely that fact is known by everybody who reads the Press.

Senator McClelland - Some employers have criticised it.

Senator MORRIS - Maybe there are some who have done that, but the employers as a group are not opposing this scheme although the unions are.

Senator Murphy - Have not the employers set their heads against the apprenticeship scheme?

Senator MORRIS - It is prefectly obvious that this scheme would now be in operation had there been stronger support, or even any support, from the trade unions within Australia. Going back some years, I myself remember proposing this very line of action in Queensland. 1 had a meeting with the unions and employers' organisations in the State. Every representative from every employers' organisation was 100 per cent, in favour of a supplementary adult training scheme to convert our unskilled workers into skilled workers. The largest union in Queensland was also in favour of it. But it was the craft unions themselves which in 1958 torpedoed the scheme which I had hoped 1 would be able to introduce in Queensland at that time. I do appeal to the honorable senator, because of the influence he undoubtedly has within his union associations, to try to convert them to a better way of thinking and to a realisation of the necessity, in these times of booming prosperity, for getting more of our unskilled people into skilled occupations to help themselves and the economy of the country.

Having made those comments, I would like to make brief passing reference to the last issue of the review of the employment situation and remind myself, as I hope to remind everybody else, that the figures which are shown on the first page of this review really tell a very remarkable story. The fact is that, even if we are going to take note of the numbers of people who are registered for employment, the figure is lower than it has been at almost any stage in our history. But we must go further than that. I have always argued that the figure which is presented to us showing the number of persons registered for employment gives, in fact, a false picture. An honorable senator on the Opposition side agreed with mc some days ago when I made this comment. A false picture is presented because there is quite a large group of people who in fact are not looking for employment at all. I have argued, and I still argue, that if we really study the employment and unemployment problem within this country, the reliable figure that we must select is not the number of persons registered for employment but the number of recipients of the unemployment benefit. I have, on quite a number of occasions, known of people who were registered for employment and who, believe me, were very selective in the employment that they accepted. They were offered employment in- quite a number of fields, but, because the employment offered did not suit them, they would not take it. Even in the period 1960-61 when we were troubled with the problem of unemployment, I could, and anybody else could, have placed hundreds of people in work if they had been willing to accept it. I can vouch for this fact.

I come back to this review, because to me it is very important. I hope some day to have the opportunity to develop my argument much more fully than I will be able to tonight in the time that is available to me. Accepting my contention that the true guide to the unemployment figure is represented by the number of recipients of the unemployment benefit, we find that throughout Australia there is less than .2 per cent, of the working population which is unemployed. There are vacancies to take four persons for every one person who is unemployed at the present time. It is truly impossible in this country, or in any other country, to get to the stage where there is not recorded a certain number of people from one point to another who are not in employment. Honorable senators know that this is a fact. They all know that there are a number of factors which cause people deliberately, and for proper motives and reasons - I would not suggest otherwise - to remain temporarily unemployed. It is a fallacy for any of us to think that because we see a figure representing the number of people drawing the unemployment benefit this is a continuing problem with particular individuals. It is not. I would very much like to have a thorough coverage of the number of people who have been drawing the unemployment benefit for two months or more. I venture to suggest that the figure would be almost nil.

I want to say that, in my own State, we have been exceedingly happy with the work of the officers of the Department of Labour and National Service. Throughout the years that I have known of their work, they have done a splendid job in Queensland. They have been deeply interested in the problem of unemployment and they have done all within their power to solve it particularly when it was a very much greater problem than it is at the present time. I do want to place on record those comments regarding the officers of the Department in Queensland.

There is one further point to which I wish to refer. I have seen in the Press at various times, as no doubt all of us have seen, comments by leading citizens who are deeply troubled about the lack of industrial harmony today. 1 repeat teat we all know that we are passing through times of great prosperity-

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable senator's time has expired.

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